20 April 1996

BUFFALO GAP

Dear Tim:

Herewith!

As we discussed and expected on the telephone today, this bio information is longer and more detailed than you can use; howsomever, it gives you the choice to use what you do want.

Following your most sound suggestion, I drafted this material the same Monday afternoon and will mail the finished product Tuesday morning.

Tom Price telephoned late Monday afternoon offering a preliminary flight schedule to Phoenix, without having made any actual ticket purchase yet. He will try to arrange a better flight departure out of Baltimore to Phoenix than 7:00 AM. I hope so!! Also he said, no Lindberg-type plane being available, he is dickering with Delta going and return.

Ernie Dickerman


Ernie Dickerman: Biographical Information      20 April 1998

Born December 22, 1910. Grew up as a boy in Richmond VA and Roanoke VA. For 88 years a bachelor, free and independent.

Graduated from Oberlin College, Oberlin. Ohio in 1931 with an A.B., having majored in Economics (a subject I understood, unlike Chemistry and Physics in which I racked up 16 hours of grade D).

Moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in December 1933 when I had been hired, by mail, by the Tennessee Valley Authority (newly created by the Roosevelt administration as of May 12, 1933) -- leaving a job with White Motors Corp. at Cleveland, Ohio. For the next 35 years I lived at Knoxville, except for 1943-46 when I was elsewhere by invitation of the U.S. Army.

However, I remained with TVA for only 3 years, not wishing to become a permanent government employee. Joined a local plastics molding company with whom I remained f or nearly 20 years.

As a member of the Conservation Committee of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club at Knoxville, I became an active conservationist. The Committee was principally concerned with management problems of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the first Rangers arrived at the recently established park in 1930) and ditto with the Cherokee National Forest. Harvey Broome, a native of Knoxville and one of the half-dozen founders of the Wilderness Society along with Bob Marshall, was the real leader of this Conservation Committee; we became close friends and worked together on a variety of conservation issues until his death about 1968 due to a heart attack. Thru Harvey I became acquainted with most of the early leaders of the Wilderness Society; ultimately joined the staff of the Society in 1956; and for the next decade (1966-76) as a staff member had frequent contacts with the governing Council members (particularly including Sig Olsen and Olaus Murie).

Living at Knoxville, my principal recreation was prowling the Great Smoky Mountains on foot--a 500,000 acre mountain wilderness. When I found the Smoky Mountains (within a month after arriving in Tennessee), I knew I had found what I was looking for on this planet; and which explains why I stayed at Knoxville for so many years (only 50 miles from the Park). In fact I left only when moving to Washington DC to the wilderness Society headquarters in 1969.

What got me on the staff of the Society was the stupid idea of the then Director of the National Park Service (George Hartzog) to build a new highway across the Great Smokies Park thru the wilderness of the western half of the Park--which intent he announced at a meeting of all national park superintendents at Gatlinburg, Tennessee in September 1965.

Already at that date the Conservation Committee of the Hiking Club, under its Chairman Harvey Broome, had developed a Wilderness Plan for the Great Smokies Park (fast action considering that the Wilderness Act had only been passed in September 1964. What got me hired by the Wilderness society in February 1966 was that the Society wanted someone thoroly familiar with the Park as a natural area and strongly wilderness-minded to travel about the southeast promoting the citizens wilderness plan and opposing the Director of the Park Service’ road proposal. It turned out that people all over the United States from Florida to California, from Maine to Washington, were opposed to new roads being built in the national parks, including this proposal for the Great Smokies Park. Also we had influential friends in Washington. With us folks in Knoxville leading the fight and providing the ammunition (the facts for wilderness and against the road), a vigorous campaign was mounted and continuously waged.

It took a seven-years fight to defeat this stupid road proposal until in 1971 Director Hartzog threw in the towel. Meanwhile Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall had told him it was "no go" and the North Carolina Congressman most directly concerned had recognized that even if the Park Service persisted the opposition was so strong that Congress would not appropriate the money.

For a variety of political reasons and despite that an overwhelming majority of citizens testified for wilderness at the official wilderness hearings held by the Park Service in June 1966 at Gatlinburg TN and Bryson City NC, not a single acre of the Great Smokies Park is yet in the Wilderness System. However, in the mid-1970’s then Park Superintendent Boyd Evison drew up a Master Plan for the Park which essentially incorporates the citizens wilderness proposal and otherwise severely limits any development in the Park, which Master Plan to this day determines management of the Park.

Moving to Washington DC in the fall of 1966, I continued to cover the eastern half of the United States doing considerable traveling to let folks know of the opportunity the Wilderness Act of 1964 offered to permanently preserve unchanged choice natural areas on the nation’s national forest, parks and wildlife refuges. And in Washington to wrestle with the federal land managing agencies and lobbying the Congress in favor of numerous wilderness bills.

Retiring from the staff of the Wilderness Society at age 65 in January 1976, I moved to Virginia to the little old mountain farm in the Alleghenies on which I have lived for the past 22 years--near Buffalo Gap in Augusta County, a dozen miles due west of Staunton. No sooner had I settled in that at its annual meeting in June that year the Virginia Wilderness Committee chose to elect me president. This organization since its founding in 1969 has initiated and coordinated the state-wide action promoting application of the Wilderness Act to suitable areas on Virginia’s national forests, parks and refuges. After several years as president or vice-president. I have ceased to be an officer but a highly active member of the Committee. Over the years the Committee has enjoyed a creditable measure of success.

Currently the Virginia Wilderness Committee is working with numerous local and regional groups seeking to persuade the Forest Service in developing its new management plan for the Jefferson National Forest (located mostly in southwest Virginia) to recommend 7 or 8 new areas for wilderness designation and by appropriate official status to preserve numerous roadless areas and old growth tree stands. Regrettably due to the persistent refusal of the incumbent Congressman (Robert Goodlatte) for the 6th Virginia Congressional District to even consider wilderness designation for any federal area, we are not actively pushing any wilderness proposals on the George Washington National Forest which mostly lies in the 6th District. However, we have full descriptions written and detailed maps drawn for half a dozen first class wilderness proposals to spring when the political climate improves with the election of a new Representative.